Producing American English Vowels During Vocal Tract Growth: A Perceptual Categorization Study of Synthesized Vowels

Ménard, Lucie; Davis, Barbara L.; Boë, Louis-Jean; Roy, Johanna-Pascale
October 2009
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Oct2009, Vol. 52 Issue 5, p1268
Academic Journal
Purpose: To consider interactions of vocal tract change with growth and perceived output patterns across development, the influence of nonuniform vocal tract growth on the ability to reach acoustic--perceptual targets for English vowels was studied. Method: Thirty-seven American English speakers participated in a perceptual categorization experiment. For the experiment, an articulatory-to-acoustic model was used to synthesize 342 five-formant vowels, covering maximal vowel spaces for speakers at 5 growth stages (from 6 months old to adult). Results: Results indicate that the 3 vowels /iuæ/ can be correctly perceived by adult listeners when produced by speakers with a 6-month-old vocal tract. Articulatory-to- acoustic relationships for these 3 vowels differ across growth stages. For a given perceived vowel category, the infant's tongue position is more fronted than the adult's. Furthermore, nonuniform vocal tract growth influences degree of interarticulator coupling for a given perceived vowel, leading to a reduced correlation between jaw height and tongue body position in infant like compared with adult vocal tracts. Conclusion: Findings suggest that nonuniform vocal tract growth does not prevent the speaker from producing acoustic--auditory targets related to American English vowels. However, the relationships between articulatory configurations and perceptual targets change from birth to adulthood.


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